The three words I generally use to describe my fall aesthetic are “naughty school girl”. Fitted sweaters, plaid skirts, and immaculately white knee socks are important fall staples, as are leather jackets, Doc Martens, and screen-printed cloth patches sporting band logos and feminist slogans.
found photos via Retrospace
I’ve been sporting the uniform chic look for the past few years. I’ve even dug up uniform pieces from local private schools at the thrift store after the graduating students anxiously donate them. This fall, I’m interested in incorporating some more cheer squad inspired looks into my wardrobe as well. Maybe it comes from feeling guilty for being voted Most School Spirit my junior year of high school despite never attending any football games, maybe it’s because a high school in my home state reprimanded their cheer squad because some snot-nosed teenage boy wanted to pass the buck on ‘having impure thoughts’ and I would like to stand in solidarity with these young women. Either way, it’s a fun, classic look with some retro Americana vibes that can be easy to channel.
via production designer Sharon Lomofsky’s official site
via fashion-and-film on Tumblr
When I was 14 years old, one of my mom’s friends told her that she thought I looked like Kirsten Dunst, and it has definitely gone to my head since. I’m truly #blessed that she has been in so many films with top notch costume and production design to channel for personal inspiration. The Virgin Suicides is an eternal favorite, but I’m also big on late-VHS era sleepover classic Bring It On. I love the red and white color scheme of the Toro uniform, and I like how Torrance is dressed like she is ready to cheer, lead, and act like she’s on speed even when she is off-campus. Her style is athletic but still feminine, and that Adidas crop top is very health goth.
The main key to the cheer uniform aesthetic, and my favorite part of the look, is the knife-pleat skirt. Up through the 1960s these skirts were often partnered with a chunky knit sweater, although the timelines of the sweatshirts going out of the style and the more fitted tops we are used to seeing today becoming the norm overlap quite a bit. To channel the sweater look, partner a cheer skirt with your favorite sweatshirt (mine is my cozy Ramones crew neck, similar here), while a buttoned crop top looks polished without looking too matchy-matchy.
My earliest inspiration for this aesthetic was Marina Diamandis in her music video for Hollywood, off of her first album The Family Jewels. A fun inversion of the cheer skirt + casual wear look, I am so into this vintage cheer shell with a pair of basic denim shorts. However, it is difficult to find a vintage cheer shell in good condition like Marina’s, and most shells are sold plain online. Ordering a customized one online is pretty expensive, so I recommend getting some miniature varsity letters from Joann’s and making your own team.
The school girl and varsity cheer aesthetics are often considered very traditionally feminine looks, to the point where either uniform has been exploited and sexualised in western society. This look can be reclaimed and given a punk edge with the right attitude, as exemplified by 90s Kathleen Hanna. Bikini Kill’s first-ever zine prominently features a cheerleader on the front cover, and Hanna gives off some serious varsity vibes with her two-tone ringer tees and her iconic “KILL ME” dress. Because punk rock feminism rules, okay?
A varsity jacket and some black and white saddle shoes are two accessories that can incorporate some school spirit vibes into your daily wardrobe. A varsity jacket can be a nice substitute for the current silky bomber jacket trend if you live somewhere where the weather will drop below 30 degrees around mid-October. Pair it with dark eye makeup, jeans, and some black Wayfarers and get ready to be mistaken for a late 70s/early 80s Debbie Harry.
Even after good girl square Allison Vernon-Williams gets a bad girl makeover in Cry-Baby, the red lipstick and cat eyeliner stay. It’s a fool-proof make up combination that works with almost any look, but especially emphasizes that retro feel in this one. This look is scrape (part-square, part-drape) approved and totally classic.
One of my staple looks is dressing up a unisex graphic tee, usually by tucking it into something more fitted, like a high-waisted skirt. I’ve been kind of obsessed with Archie Comics lately, and after realizing that Rachel Antonoff’s upcoming Betty and Veronica collection was way out of my price range, I added this much more affordable tee to my wishlist on Amazon. If you want a more classic black and white look (or if you think Betty and Veronica can both do a lot better), I’m also in love with this black t-shirt featuring Jenny Holzer’s Truisms, and this Soviet Bridgette Bardot shirt, both from Etsy.
A few years back I ordered a white cheer skirt off of an athletic uniform site, and even though I hardly wear it because of the length I’d say it’s one of my favorite articles of clothing that I own. I love the knife pleats and the white trim on this classic red cheer skirt, which is available in up to a women’s 5XL. Be warned though: you might want to wear some bike shorts or something similar underneath, because these skirts do tend to run fairly short!
I bought this pair of ribbed knee-socks from American Apparel with one of my first-ever paychecks at my first job, and they have held up extremely well since! Now that Dov Charney has been ousted, I’ve become extremely fond of AA, because their items are very durable and they pay their employees livable wages instead of relying on overseas sweatshop labor like most fast fashion companies.
Black and white oxford saddle shoes are an important staple to my wardrobe. Initially for pretending to be Audrey Horne, my pair was thrifted and worn into the ground after practically living in them for almost two years. This pair from Payless is very classic, and they are also available on Amazon which is cool if you are trying to milk every cent out of your Prime account like I am.
I am going through a novelty purse phase at the moment. This composition book shaped purse sports that classic marbled pattern and can be converted from a clutch to a cross-body bag.Real talk though: when is Amazon going to give me money for sharing all of their shit with you?
Lastly, no look is complete without red lipstick. My favorite lipstick brand is Kiko Milano, who have now been selling cosmetics in the United States for one year! Their makeup is Sephora quality at drugstore makeup prices. Their Velvet Passion Matte Lipstick in Cherry is the closest match I’ve found to the Mrs. Mia Wallace lipstick from Urban Decay (at least for my pale-ass skin), and doesn’t seem to smudge onto my teeth as easily either. There is also a magnet in the top of the cap so that you don’t damage any of your makeup! The coordinating lip liner applies great as well if you’re like me and have the makeup application skills of a toddler.
As for outerwear,I recommend a loose light-colored denim jacket, a motorcycle jacket, or a varsity jacket. Motorcycle jackets can be hard to find, but I recommend thrifting denim and varsity jackets for the best quality, best price, and to ensure that you have a one-of-a-kind piece. All of my varsity jackets I own have been thrifted and are often very quilted on the inside, making them a good transition piece from fall to winter. Sometimes you’ll find ones from real high schools and universities and can figure out where and when they are from. Two Christmases ago I found one at a Goodwill in Southern California from an international team in the mid-90s called the Yokosuka Greyhawks and read a bit about the team’s origins online.
You can customize the jean jacket or the varsity jacket with patches and pins, or you can leave them plain. Varsity jackets and motorcycle jackets with a graphic tee also look cool with mom jeans and black ankle boots, but denim-on-denim action can look very Jeff Foxworthy-esque, so avoid it when possible.
The far-right jacket (which is the only far-right I will opt for of anything) is available on Etsy for a pretty reasonable price. Don’t look at the price points for the other two jackets or you might cry a bit.